Are Windows and OS X malware?
Richard Stallman has never been...er...shy about sharing his opinions, particularly when it comes to software that doesn't adhere to his vision. This time around he has written an opinion column for The Guardian that takes on Microsoft Windows, Apple's OS X and even Amazon's Kindle e-reader.
Richard Stallman on malware for The Guardian:
Malware is the name for a program designed to mistreat its users. Viruses typically are malicious, but software products and software preinstalled in products can also be malicious – and often are, when not free/libre.
Developers today shamelessly mistreat users; when caught, they claim that fine print in EULAs (end user licence agreements) makes it ethical. (That might, at most, make it lawful, which is different.) So many cases of proprietary malware have been reported, that we must consider any proprietary program suspect and dangerous. In the 21st century, proprietary software is computing for suckers.
Windows snoops on users, shackles users and, on mobiles, censors apps; it also has a universal back door that allows Microsoft to remotely impose software changes. Microsoft sabotages Windows users by showing security holes to the NSA before fixing them.
Apple systems are malware too: MacOS snoops and shackles; iOS snoops, shackles, censors apps and has a back door. Even Android contains malware in a nonfree component: a back door for remote forcible installation or deinstallation of any app.
Amazon’s Kindle e-reader reports what page of what book is being read, plus all notes and underlining the user enters; it shackles the user against sharing or even freely giving away or lending the book, and has an Orwellian back door for erasing books.
As you might imagine, Stallman's commentary drew a lot of responses from readers of The Guardian:
JohnnyHooper: "The Android operating system is basically spyware, mining your personal information, contacts, whereabouts, search activity, media preferences, photos, email, texts, chat, shopping, calls, etc so Google can onsell it to advertisers. Nice one, Google, you creep."
Ece301: "What the free software movement needs is more than just the scare stories about 'capability' - without reliable examples of this stuff causing real-world problems for real people such detail-free articles as this are going to affect nothing.
I'm quite willing to make the sacrifice of google, apple, the NSA etc. knowing exactly where I am if it means my phone can give me directions to my hotel in this strange city. Likewise if I want the capability to erase my phone should I lose it, I understand that that means apple etc. can probably get at that function too.
Limiting_Factor: "Or for people who don't want to mess about with command lines and like to have commercially supported software that works. Which is about 99% of the home computer using population. You lost, Richard. Get over it."
CosmicTrigger: "Selling customers the illusion of security and then leaving a great gaping hole in it for the government to snoop in return for a bit of a tax break is absolutely reprehensible."
Liam01: "This guy is as extreme as the director of the NSA , just at the other end of the spectrum. I'd be more inclined to listen if he showed a hint of nuance, or didn't open with an egoistic claim of "invented free software"."
AlanWatson: "My Kindle doesn't report anything, because I never turn the WiFi on. Just sideload content from wherever I want to buy it (or download if there is no copyright), format conversion is trivial, and for the minor inconvenience of having to use a USB cable I'm free of Amazon's lock-in, snooping and remote wipes. Simple."
Rod: "Here's my crazy prediction: Stallman's diatribes will continue to have zero measurable impact on adoption rates of Free software. Time to try a different approach, Richey."
Quicknstraight: "Not all snooping is bad for you. If it enhances your experience, say, by providing you with a better playlist or recommendations for things you like doing, what's the big deal?
Consumers don't have it every which way. You either accept a degree of data collection in return for a more enjoyable user experience, or accept that no data collection means you'll have to search out everything for yourself.
The average user prefers the easier option and has no interest in having to dig away through loads of crap to find what they want.
They key question should be what happens to data that is mined about users, not whether mining such data is bad per se."
Bob Rich: "As an author, I LIKE the idea that if a person buys a copy of my book, that copy cannot be freely distributed to others. With a paper book, that means that the original owner no longer has access to it. With an electronic book, "giving" or "lending" means duplicating, and that's stealing my work. The same is true for other creators: musicians, artists, photographers."
Mouse: "Stallman's a hero and we wouldn't have the level of (low-cost) technology all we enjoy today without him. I remember reading an article by him years ago and he said that the only laptop he'd use was the Lemote Yeeloong because it was the only system that was 100% open, even down to the BIOS - he was specifically paranoid about how government agencies might modify proprietary code for their own ends - and at the time I thought "Jeez, he's a bit of a paranoid fruitcake", but post-Snowden he's been proven to be right about what the security services get up."